Friday, July 23, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Hospitalized with COVID-19, the Metro Police sergeant couldn’t catch his breath. He described the feeling as if he had a plastic bag over his head that was sealed with duct tape around his neck.
Metro SWAT Sgt. Tom Jenkins said he’d never experienced such distress.
“It wasn’t the fear of dying — it was the fear of not being able to breathe,” the 28-year Metro veteran said in a video released by the department Thursday in an effort to persuade the unvaccinated to get inoculated.
As of earlier this week, only 48% of Metro personnel had been fully vaccinated against the virus that has killed at least 5,797 Nevadans since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.
Those figures include at least two Metro officers. Lt. Erik Lloyd, 53, died from the virus last July. The agency earlier this month announced the death of Officer Jason Swanger.
Metro’s vaccination rate tracks with the 47% of people age 12 and older who’ve been fully vaccinated in Nevada, according to state data.
With a larger population, Clark County has felt the brunt of the virus.
In Nevada, more than 348,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and the positivity rate is increasing as the more transmissible delta variant has gripped much of the country.
As of Thursday, 203 patients suspected of being infected by the virus were in intensive care units — 100 of them on ventilators, state data shows.
In the video, Jenkins admitted that prior to his illness, he was a COVID-19 skeptic. It’s just another flu, masks are useless, he said he would express. He would even joke about it, he said.
Among the 32 officers in Metro SWAT, the five who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 were the only ones not vaccinated, Jenkins said.
Even when he tested positive in late June, Jenkins thought he would be healed in a few days. But on July 1, he said, he couldn’t breathe and drove himself to the hospital.
He said he was admitted that day and was hospitalized for more than a week.
“COVID is not a joke,” he said. “I”m here to tell you it almost took me off this planet.”
“How wrong was I,” he said about not taking it seriously.
Jenkins, who now keeps a mask on him, said he hadn’t fully recovered and he lost 20 pounds from an already slim body.
As soon as he makes a full recovery, Jenkins said, he is going to get the vaccine.
“Go get the damn shot,” he implored the community. “Period.”